By Mary Ann Clements

Right now you can participate in an event that’s only happened 24 times in the history of the United States of America. Every ten years since 1790, the federal government has conducted a count of all persons living in the United States. If you haven’t already, you can still fill out the 2020 census form to make sure you and the members of your household are counted.

Censuses are useful tools for family history researchers since they serve as evolving “snapshots” of the past. Ever since 1850, censuses in the United States provide names of all individuals in a household as well as their ages, gender, birth place, and occupation. Later censuses reveal details such as family relationships and citizenship status. United States census records are released publicly after 72 years. The 1940 census records were released in 2012, and in a couple years we’ll get to see 1950 census records.

To celebrate this once-in-a-decade experience, I thought it’d be fun to share census records related to our common ancestor, Theodore Turley. The earliest census where Theodore Turley is enumerated is the 1840 United States census. Family members may remember Theodore Turley spent the majority of 1840 either on his mission in England or journeying home with a company of British Saints. They arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, on Tuesday, November 24, 1840.1 Luckily for us, the census wasn’t enumerated in Hancock County, Illinois, until March 1841.2

1840 United States Federal Census

The 1840 census, like the prior U.S. censuses, only named the heads of household. Other household members were marked according to their gender and age. Theodore Turley (written as Thedr Turley) is the third name down in this cropped image of Hancock County, Illinois, residents.3 Some may recognize names of other early pioneer members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living next to Theodore, including Levi Hancock, Lucy [Mack] Smith, Joseph Smith, and W[illiam] Law.

The marks next to Theodore’s name indicate the various members of his household sorted by gender and age:

  • one male under 5 years of age (Isaac Turley)
  • one male between 5 and 10 years of age (Frederick Turley)
  • one male between 40 and 50 years of age (Theodore Turley)
  • one female under 5 years of age (Charlotte Turley)
  • one female between 5 and 10 years of age (Sarah Elizabeth Turley)
  • two females between 10 and 15 years of age (Mary Ann Turley and Priscilla Rebecca Turley)
  • one female between 15 and 20 years of age (Frances Amelia Turley)
  • one female between 40 and 50 years of age (Frances Kimberley)
1850 United States Federal Census

The 1850 U.S. federal census was the first to include names of each household member. We know that Theodore Turley lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, through all of 1850, but due to issues surrounding Utah becoming a territory, the federal census was not enumerated until early 1851.4 By this point, Theodore and his family had already moved to Utah Valley, the staging ground for those planning to help settle San Bernardino, California.5

The 1850 census illustrates the expansion of Theodore Turley’s family.6 Theodore’s household now includes a new wife, Ruth Jane Giles. Theodore and Ruth were married the previous year, June 1850, in Salt Lake City, Utah, after the death of Mary Clift. There are also three additional children: George A. C. Selwyn (Theodore’s stepson by Sarah Ellen Clift Selwyn), Joseph Orson Turley (Ruth’s biological son adopted by Theodore), and Frances Kimberley Turley (daughter of Mary Clift).

  • Theodore Turley, age 50, male, gunsmith, birthplace England
  • Ruth Turley, age 32, female, birthplace Massachusetts
  • Mary Ann Turley, age 23, female, birthplace Canada
  • Frederick Turley, age 19, male, birthplace Canada
  • Sarah Turley, age 15, female, birthplace Canada
  • Isaac Turley, age 14, male, birthplace Canada
  • Charlotte Turley, age 10, female, birthplace Illinois
  • George Turley [George A. C. Selwyn], age 9, male, birthplace Illinois
  • Joseph Turley, age 5, male, birthplace Illinois
  • Frances K Turley, age 1, female, birthplace Deseret [Utah]
1860 United States Federal Census

In the 1850 census (enumerated 1851), Theodore and his family were about to travel to California. By 1860, Theodore and his family had already returned from California and resided in three separate southern Utah towns: Cedar City, Washington, and Minersville. Theodore’s household in 1860 had shrunk to himself, Ruth, and their three children, but several of Theodore’s adult children lived nearby. The date on the page indicates the census was taken on July 21, 1860.7 The stated location is the city of Beaver, but we know that Theodore Turley’s family lived in the smaller nearby community of Minersville, Utah, at this point.

  • Theodore Turley, age 59, male, farmer, birthplace England
  • Ruth J Turley, age 49, female, birthplace Pennsylvania
  • Joseph Turley, age 15, male, birthplace Illinois
  • Omner Turley, age 8, male, birthplace California
  • Alven H Turley, age 4, male, birthplace California
1870 United States Federal Census

By 1870, Theodore had moved from Minersville to the town of Beaver. His household only consisted of himself, Ruth, and and their two teenage sons, Jacob Omner and Alvin Hope. The census was enumerated on July 17, 1870.8

  • Theodore Turley, age 69, male, white, gunsmith, birthplace England
  • Ruth Turley, age 58, female, white, keeps house, birthplace Massachusetts
  • Om[n]er Turley, age 18, male, white, laborer, birthplace California
  • Alvin Turley, age 13, male, white, at home, birthplace California

Theodore passed away from cancer a little over a year after this census was taken, on August 18, 1871, at his home in Beaver.9

Celebrating the U.S. Census with Theodore Turley’s Census Records
  1. William Clayton journal Vol. 1 1840-1842, p. 94, digital reproduction of original, Mormon Missionary Diaries online database, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, accessed 8 April 2020, See also “45: Nauvoo,” an installment of Theodore Turley: A Biography by Richard E. Turley, Jr., and a related blog post “From the Inbox: Bringing British Converts to Nauvoo.”
  2. Stanley B. Kimball, Sources of Mormon History in Illinois, 1839-48: An Annotated Catalog of the Microfilm Collection at Southern Illinois University, 2nd ed. (Carbondale, Ill.: Central Publications, 1966), 19, accessed 8 April 2020,
  3. “United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 August 2017), Thedr Turley, Hancock, Illinois, United States, accessed 8 April 2020.
  4. “The Seventh Census of the United States: Utah and Slavery,” Utah Historical Quarterly Web Extra (Spring 2017), accessed 8 April 2020,
  5. See related blog post “In the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.”
  6. “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 4 April 2020), Household of Theodore Turley, Utah county, Utah, Utah Territory, United States, accessed 8 April 2020.
  7. “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 March 2020), Household of Theodore Turley, Beaver City, Beaver, Utah, United States, accessed 8 April 2020.
  8. “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 March 2020), Household of Theodore Turley, Beaver, Beaver, Utah Territor, United States, accessed 8 April 2020.
  9. The family’s traditional death date for Theodore Turley is August 12, 1871. Historical records have now come to light indicating he actually died several days later, on August 18th. See related blog post “Do We Have Theodore’s Death Date Wrong?”
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